Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reading my way through ADSS!

This is what I have been doing for the last two years - reading my way through the 12 volumes of Actes et Documents. I've created a series of tables as I read; one is a summary of each document, and another is a table of people mentioned. So far I have read and annotated nearly five volumes.

I do enjoy reading and translating and going off on tangents looking up odd details and information about different people and places. It has been an amazingly enriching experience.

Things will pick up a bit once I hit Volume 6 - it is the first volume that deals with the victims of the war (and I have read most of that material already - just have to create the tables!)

So ... I came across this document written by Domenico Tardini, one of the principal officials in the Secretariat of State. He made a note of a conversation he had with the British minister, D'Arcy Osborne, who had been interned in the Vatican since Italy declared war on the UK in June 1940. Osborne faithfully relayed instructions from London to the Vatican. On occasion, he was asked to pass on some more critical messages. This is one of them. It is an indication that the selection of documents made by the editors between 1965 and 1981 was a genuine attempt to give as detailed, and accurate, a picture of the operation of the Papal Secretariat of State during the war years as possible.

The set out of the text and the translation from the Italian, where necessary, is my own.

ADSS 5.416

D’Arcy Osborne to Monsignor Domenico Tardini


Subject: Opinion in the Foreign Office, London, concerning the position of the Vatican in the war.

Archive Reference: AES 5682/42

Language: English with note by Domenico Tardini in Italian (translated)


I would not like you to think that we are not aware that the Pope is being Criticised by the Axis Powers, but you have summed up our chief criticism in the last words of your dispatch, namely, “the endeavour of the Vatican to maintain a precarious equilibrium outside of and above the war”. In order to do this we feel that ever since the entry of Italy into the war the Pope has more and more assimilated himself to the status of a sovereign of a small neutral State in the geographical neighbourhood of Axis Powers, and, for worldly rather than spiritual reasons, has allowed himself, like others, to be bullied. In short, we feel that His Holiness is not putting up a very good fight to retain his moral and spiritual leadership, when he should realize that in Hitler’s new world there will be no room for the Catholic religion and that if the Papacy remains silent, the free nations may find that they have little power to arrest the anticlericalism which may follow the war.

21.07.42: Note by Tardini:

This note was delivered to me today by the English Minister; which declares that it is a draft of a private letter of a friend [of Osborne’s], but which reflects the mentality of the Foreign Office.

22.07.42. Seen by the Holy Father.

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